By Barney Blakeney
Charleston ports continue to rack up record-setting volumes for containers handled. International Longshoremen Association Local 1422 President Kenny Riley said for the approximately 1,200 members of the union that’s not bad news. It positions the union for continued growth and represents an exciting time for those looking for a career in the maritime industry.
“South Carolina Port Authority has experienced incredibly strong growth in 2018, with August marking the single best month in our history as well as the sixth consecutive record-setting month for container volumes,” said SCPA president and CEO Jim Newsome. “Fall is typically a seasonally strong time for our port, and while we look forward to continued growth through 2018, we will continue to monitor the potential for tariff negotiations to adversely impact containerized trade if prolonged or not otherwise resolved successfully.”
Riley said the union also is monitoring the tariff negotiations. But in the meantime, the steady growth in container volume translates to more man-hours and tonnage wages which contribute to the union’s pension and benefits package. It’s an overall plus for the union, he said.
He was especially excited by the impact the increased volume has on the union’s benefits portfolio. Union members’ salaries impact a wide range of economic factors. Their salaries afford the members a good lifestyle that includes automobile and home sales – two of the community’s biggest consumer items. But additionally, more than 1,000 retirees, dependents and beneficiaries receive benefits on a monthly basis through the union’s retirement plan, Riley said. He called the union’s benefits package the best in the world.
Economic engines firing up and running at cruising speed in the region are driving growth that promotes optimism. The automotive and aerospace industries complete an economic picture that places the ILA in a pivotal position, Rile said. The harbor deepening project will deepen Charleston Harbor to 54 feet at the entrance channel and 52 feet in the harbor. That means larger ships that can traverse the newly expanded Panama Canal will be able to call on the Port of Charleston any time of day without tidal restrictions. Added to that is the growing cruise ship component.
“There’s no bad news here,” Riley said. All the contributing factors point to an increased and more diverse workforce, he said. “We’re poised for growth proportionate to the growth that’s occurring in the industrial community. We’re in the southeast, the fastest growing region in the country. Things bode well for us,” he said.